Wednesday – Distribution with Asunción Pérez

Wednesday morning, we awoke to the smells of garlic and fish cooking below us…we moved to a room across the hall at Shalom, so it wasn’t as noisy or damp as our previous room, but the 5 a.m. aroma was quite interesting. 

We rode as a group to Metro Manila and the Asunción Pérez outreach center, part of the Methodist church right beside the location where many of our street kids live.  We met for a brief worship service with the families who registered the previous day and even some who did not register.  We gave each family member a bag packed by Julie, Rubie Joy, Kathy and Susan the previous day. 

Wednesday afternoon, we gathered in the Shalom Conference Room and processed all of our activities from the previous week.  So many things went through our minds.  Words like trust, love, acceptance, empowerment  and bonds rang true over and over.  Yes, tearfully, we said our goodbyes. 

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Immersion – Manggahan Part 2

After a 7 hour ride, we arrived in a remote village of the Dumagat indigenous people called Manggahan. Children in white shirts and navy skirts and shorts walked from small open-air classrooms.  We were greeted by the mothers of preschoolers and the kindergarten teacher, Arden. 

Angie introduced us and translated the purpose of meeting.  Teams from Harris partner with this village and others on a weekly basis regarding their concerns, needs and projects; think of it as a weekly team and status meeting.  First, we met the mothers of the preschoolers and learned that most of the women had between 3 and 12 children often with the youngest openly nursing.

Angie skillfully addressed their complaints and found that the crux of the problem is that they don’t have enough food.  This farming community’s rice crop was destroyed after last month’s flood and torrential rain.  Many times, mothers nurse their babies until they are 3 or 4 years old years old.  They may not even be producing milk, but the breast is both pacifier and source of nutrition. 

Arden reminded the mothers of the importance of sending their children to school on a regular basis.  The oldest mother replied, “it’s easier for our children to go work with us in the forests and fields than to send them to school.  At least in the forest, they can get a snack.”

Angie emphasized the importance of education and found that they were also concerned about the failed vegetable crops and that they do not have the funds to buy rice. 

Arden proudly showed us the school’s garden boasting raised beds and some beans ready to pick. Several families picked a handful of beans that they would use for several days’ meals. 

After the mothers’ meeting, we met with 3 community health workers who double as doctor and midwife.  They are all trained in how to use the birthing kits that many of our UMW sisters across the United States make each year.  The birthing kit contains a piece of plastic, two strands of twine, a bar of soap, two small blankets and a razor blade.  They could not specifically say how many babies that they helped into the world, but they said, “all of them in this and two other villages”.

Dumagat people see children as a prosperous gift and it is the outside world that has a problem with the number of children.  In this farming community, when crops are abundant, food is abundant…and life is wonderful.  When crops fail, everyone suffers. 

The week prior to our arrival, the health workers met with someone who taught them to make cough syrup and antiseptic ointment from the surrounding rain forest.  The problem?  They need stainless steel bowls to make the medicines.  They all agreed that this start-up would be their community’s main priority. 
Angie again worked her magic of partnering and the group had a plan. 

At this point, we parted with the health workers and started taking our overnight bags and food to the staff house at the top of the hill. 

We walked by the UMCOR deep water drilling site which will provide fresh drinking water instead of having to haul water from the river. 

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The staff house is made of bamboo with a thatched roof and bamboo floor.  We made a peanut butter sandwich, walked up the hill behind the house to the “Comfort Room”.

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We rolled up our pants to go to the CR (aka “the john”, toilet, restroom, water closet, etc) and took our own TP and flashlight…to flush, we dipped water from the blue barrel and poured it into the bowl until the water was clear. 

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The fireflies were beautiful and the sounds of barking dogs, frogs and unknown animals was wonderful music compared to the traffic noise of Metro Manila.  The bedroom was 6′ x 6’…Meredith, Jenn and I slept on the floor on 1/2 inch insulated foam and the others slept in the other raised section of the house…each bamboo section bending as we moved.
There was a car battery in our room that was used to light a single bulb for the house.  It was turned off around 11 p.m.

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Immersion – Manggahan Part 1

Immersion.  The word alone scared me.  It was the unknown factor.  Sunday night, after devotions, Kit said, “tomorrow is going to be so exciting!” Her exuberance was infectious.  And I was still nervous.  After a week of travel, new sights, sounds and smells, I didn’t know what else I could possibly see.  

Julie stopped by the room that Meredith and I shared and said, “this is a text from Jenn, ‘we have good news and bad news.  The bad news is that there is no power in the village.  The good news is that we get to ride a truck that hauls concrete blocks.'”

It took a short discussion and prayer to alleviate the fears.  Remember our word “depende”? Well that word was coming back again and again.. and I was looking for a bit of structure.  Bobbi’s bible study from a few days prior came to mind and I told Jeanie, Meredith and Julie that “I am so accustomed to being a ‘Martha’..doing, planning, fussing over things, that I am having a difficult time being a ‘Mary’, sitting and drinking-in the wisdom”.

Words of reassurance reminded me that we were all a little scared…yet I was the one crying and being hard on myself.  I was unreasonably thinking that I would be left in a remote area or that we would be stranded and homeless.

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Janet eating animal crackers and peanut butter the night before immersion

The next morning, Meredith, Jenn and I rode with Jeanie, Kit and Bobbi, to a point where we were dropped off so we could catch a taxi.  The taxi driver stopped at McDonalds so we could grab something to eat…

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From there, Meredith, Jenn and I rode a taxi to Harris Memorial College where we met with a local UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief) volunteer named Edward and a former Harris Graduate named Angie who works as a community organizer in the Manggahan community. 

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The chaplain drove us to meet the truck, driven by Angie’s son.  It was like riding in the back of a pick-up truck loaded with cinder blocks, lots of bottled water and a few workers who didn’t speak English. 

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We rode for an hour to Taytay, then when we turned off the paved road, I immediately felt peace. 

After another 3 hours on a bumpy, rutted road, we arrived at the village. 

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Immersion – Deaconess & Cemetery City

Julie, Kathy and Susan visited a home for retired deaconess and a community where people live in a cemetery.  They make their beds on above-ground tombs… Literally, they sleep inside the sarcophagus sections on top of the buried and deceased. 

We learned that within Philippine communities (including the seawall community, metro street vendors, Upper Javier, and cemetery people), there are leaders among those some deem the least. 

When our team arrived, the children presented a beautifully hand-written welcome banner written on recycled and thin paper.  Julie plans to have it laminated and will display it with joy in her office. 

Local children helped our team members walk along a sea wall and
made them feel loved and accepted. 
Our team slept at the home for retired deaconesses and the next day worked alongside our Ubuntu sisters at Asunción Pérez Center in Metro Manila where they packed 60 food relief bags for street families.  The bags contained approximately 3 pounds of rice, sardines, tuna, cooking oil, dried milk and a few other staple-items for each family.  During last month’s flood, many of the families we met told us that they could not lay down to sleep because their corners were flooded. They sat in trees and other high places until the waters subsided. 

Our sisters worked with the. Community leader to register families to receive the relief bags.  Registration prevented duplicating provisions and allowed our local sisters to have contact names to continue community-building. 

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Immersion – Camachile

On Monday, 9/10, Jeanie, Bobbi and Kit traveled to a town called Camachile in the Pampanga region (a 3 hour drive from the Shalom Center in Metro Manila) where they were welcomed by Pastor Leslie and her husband who is also a pastor at another church.  Camachile is home to the Ayat  indigenous people and is a beautiful area of the Philippines. The UMW owns property in the area that was destroyed by the volcano eruption of Mount Pinatubo several years ago. 

One prevailing community concern is property development…mining companies want the land for the minerals and resort developers want the land to build luxury resorts for tourism. 

Kit, Bobbi and Jeanie visited and talked with women of the community about their ongoing projects, including the church’s project of buying all school supplies for the community children. 

Additionally, the church hosts feeding programs and a medical clinic for the community.

One church had to raise its roof after ash from the volcano eruption flooded the church.  They started building with no advance funds…they started building in faith  and the money came after the work started. 

What a blessing for our team to witness the rapid growth and continued faithfulness of the community in such a short timeframe. Pastor Leslie and her team saw a need, worked toward a solution and didn’t wait for funding before digging the foundation.  While there may not ever be enough money to be extravagant, there is always enough to continue the Lord’s work. 

Our team was greeted with a worship service, children singing and dancing.  They slept in the church and the next day, visited the oyster mushroom farm.  Profits from the farm go back into the community and to fund school- supply ministry, feeding programs and clinic expenses.  To get to the medical clinic, our team walked up a mountain and across a bridge with more holes than boards. 

Bobbi’s favorite memory is of when they finished talking with the women from church, and started  down the mountain, the skies opened and rain poured down. Two little girls clung to them to keep from from getting wet.  At some point, Bobbi held the umbrella over the little girls and her camera and they slid down the mountain…it was easier for her to get wet than to ruin the camera and for the girls to enjoy a moment out of the rain. 

We will post pictures from Bobbi in a few weeks. 

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Sunday Afternoon…9/9/12

Sunday, after church, we rode in the van to intromuros to the area where Rizal was imprisoned and to see how his martyrdom gave birth to the Filipino voice at the turn of the 20th century. After taking in the sights and seeing beauty and the areas still cleaning up after past month’s flooding, we rode to Green Hills Shopping Center for a bit of R&R and to see the pearl market…we went diving for pearls..not really…we experienced the market and lots of pearl jewelery vendors. We were so enchanted by the market that we soon found ourselves in “Kenny Rogers Roasted Chicken”. A western chain restaurant. We laughed and talked and the next thing we knew, we were being kicked out.

In Manila Metro, we learned that we open our purses each time we enter a shopping center do that security guards can perform a cursory glance. Sometimes, to go into a grocery store, patrons must go through a metal detector… And homeless people are corralled by security. Grocery store cashiers wear heels, cream colored dresses and stockings. As we watched our purses and packs, Filipinos watched us, often staring at our group. I’m accustomed to being watched as a tall person, but to have people openly stare at me as I walk by as a minority is completely different.

We had devotions later that evening as we prepared for our community immersion.

Janet

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Sunday – 9/9 – worship services

On Sunday, 9/9/12, we split into 4 small groups and worshipped in local churches with several of the women we met at last week’s leadership conference.   It was Grandparents’ Day and we each had a different experience. 

One service was only in Tagalog (aka Filipino) while others (like the church I visited) used a mixture of Tagalog and English.  Here in the Philippines, English is the nationally recognized language business and government practices.  Sometimes, when there is no translation for a phrase, the native language (either English or Tagalog) is used. 

One service included a liturgical dance using votive candles, another included praise and worship music intertwined with violins.  Even though the message were not in English, we Coyle understand the important, underlying themes of love and family. 

The church I attended was a community outreach church in Las Piñas.  The church originally held service in a single car garage, now used as the fellowship hall.  The interior of the house has been gutted and is even being expanded inside to accommodate the addition of a balcony area.  This 22 year old church is small in size, it reminded me of my home church in Crouse, North Carolina. 

Lunch was prepared at each of our churches by the women and included things like quail eggs, roasted chicken, pork k-bobs and rice.  Dessert was made from the casava melon and called “Peachy Peachy” a local favorite. 

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